Trading hamburgers for democracy: Joan Mandle of Democracy Matters speaks out

Dr. Joan Mandle is the executive director of Democracy Matters. Photo courtesy of

Dr. Joan Mandle is the executive director of Democracy Matters. Photo courtesy of

By Julia Sippel, Staff Writer

As class resumed on March 14 and 15 after spring break, students involved in Democracy Matters as well as students in a few classes had the pleasure of meeting Dr. Joan Mandle, the organization’s executive director. A Colgate University professor and founder of the school’s Center for Women’s Studies, Dr. Mandle is passionate about issues of policy and democracy, particularly in regards to the economics of politics.

At present, a small portion of wealthy individuals provide the funding for elections–totaling more than eight billion dollars for the upcoming presidential contest. “The amount of money we are spending on this election is. . . absurd.” Less than .25% of Americans are contributing to this vast amount of financial resources.

In the light of a cynical populous, Dr. Mandle affirms that awareness and recognition can lead to a newfound hope in American politics. She presents an alternative that is already happening in places like New York City: public financing. Public financing could break down to about six dollars per person per election cycle. As more people recognize their dissatisfaction with the state of funding for American politics, exchanging a McDonald’s meal for democracy is a hopeful alternative.

“Young people currently outnumber senior citizens,” Dr. Mandle said of the electorate. She emphasized the importance of finding the positive than just voting to say “no.”

“I learned all that I know from Martin Luther King,” she elaborated; look to the “I Have A Dream” speech and realize what the country could be. It comes down to asking the general people, “What is bothering you?” she explained. “The big funders do not give you money without wanting something back.” In turn, their benefits come before those of the people–case in point, the prevalence of seemingly avoidable student debt and a political disconnect regarding climate change.

Looking to do your part? Join Democracy Matters and about 200 other organizations on April 17 for a “Democracy Awakening” in Washington D.C. Change will not be immediate, of course, but each step–each individual’s participation–will prove crucial. In turn, a “new dawning of awareness” can arise, bringing back the government “of the people, by the people, and for the people” to America.

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